I started an eleventh
hour revision of Rescue on Nim’s Island yesterday. If all had gone to plan, it
would have already been copy-edited, which would mean it was too late for a
major redraft. However, luckily enough as it turned out, life intervened and I was
a few weeks late meeting my deadline. My editor still intended to have the
copyedit done before the end of the year – but a few weeks ago she emailed to say
she wasn’t going to be able to do it till January. Did I mind? Hmm, that was a
hard one: did I mind not having a right-after-Christmas deadline?
I should probably
explain here: the copyedit is when the editor goes through the manuscript
paragraph by paragraph, line by line and word by word. A comma here, break that
sentence in half, two sentences in a row have exactly the same rhythm and
syntax, this paragraph really isn’t clear – and did you really mean to use that
? Nitpicking and essential.
But it means that the story’s already gone through a structural edit, and that
now editor and author have agreed that it’s in essentially the right shape and
that the author’s just finished a final draft or five getting it to what feels
like as perfect as possible. (A transient feeling, quickly squashed.)
It’s not the time for
a major redraft. And since I’ve decided I have to do it, and my editor’s agreed
it’s probably a good idea, it has to be done fast.
Not a huge change
, I tell myself. Just a few changes in the opening scene. In the whole introduction and
first chapter. And dialogue throughout. And the characters’ emotions – that
backbone behind plot. That’s all.
Never mind that
changing a point of view in an opening scene is going to ripple through the
Never mind that
inserting a sentence or two changes the pattern of all the paragraphs that lead
up to it or from it.
Never mind that the
manuscript’s finished. Scenes segue, sentences have rhythm, commas and words
are the way I want them.
I hesitate; I delete a
crucial sentence, undo the delete, try adding a new sentence instead.
Then I come to my
senses. I copy the document, paste it into a new one and rename it. It’s just a
game, I tell myself. If I don’t like it, the old one is still there. And just
like that, I’m free. The scenes can dance, the words can jump and skip and
settle into new and unimagined patterns. I can play.
And maybe that’s it
with life too. Some things are real and serious and can’t be changed – but many
can. Sometimes we’ll never know whether we made the absolutely best decision. We
just have to let ourselves be free to play and choose what seems the best at
the time. The more of a game it seems, the freer we feel, the more likely we
are to love it – and isn’t that a definition of a good life decision?
Whatever other New
Year’s resolutions you make, try to feel free to play and enjoy your writing, your work… your life.